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Teach your kids to spell like national spelling bee champs

Want a spelling be champion in your family? Then use these tips to help your child learn to spell with the best of them.


There is a certain electric magic that comes with the National Spelling Bee. It’s the stuff that movies and legends are made of. This year, Sukanya Roy won the 2011 Scripps National Spelling Bee (the 84th annual!) with the word cymotrichous (as in my hair on a steamy day — or, in plain English, having the hair wavy). The 14-year-old spelled her way through 20 rounds and beat out 275 other spellers for the honor.

But how does one garner such stellar spelling skills?

Move over, spell check!

Even if your child doesn’t aspire to the National Spelling Bee, having good spelling skills is a really great. Yes, it’s beneficial, even though spell check is everywhere. (Haven’t you read Damn You Autocorrect? If not, you should. It’s a great afternoon pick-me-up.)

The National Spelling Bee website suggests having your kids keep a journal of all the coolest words they find. Also, read great books, peruse the dictionary and perhaps even watching the documentary Spellbound as a family.

How can your kids practice spelling?

Whether your kids want to be master spellers or just want to score high on their spelling exams, knowing how to practice their skills is essential. Here are a few good ideas:

  • Read with them. One of the best things you can do for your kids to teach them reading and spelling skills is to read with them from a variety of books. It exposes them to all sorts of new words.
  • Practice, practice, practice. From the grocery store to the drive-thru window, there are so many times when kids can practice their reading skills. Have yours keep track of the grocery list. Or challenge them to read book titles out of your bookcase.
  • Flash card it. Do flash cards work? Definitely. I can still tell you the definitions and spellings of a number of SAT words that I learned thanks to a set of fantastic flash cards. Try it with your kids. But make it fun, not a pressure-filled activity.
  • Quiz ’em. Stuck in traffic? Walking through the neighborhood? Making dinner? Any of these are perfect opportunities to quiz your kids on their spelling words.
  • Find a rhythm. In Akeelah and the Bee, Akeelah found success in rhythmic spelling (she would jump rope while studying). Help your kids find a rhythm of their own for studying.

More on kids’ study skills

Increase your child’s SAT scores with our top study tips
5 Simple steps to help your teen or tween study for a test
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